– What hides behind these vented emotional claims and blackmail against polygamy as practice-
Let me make this disclaimer upfront, as the author of this controversial article I fundamentally believe in heterosexual one-man-one-women marriages defined in New Testament Christian classification.
This New Testament classification of matrimony as a standard I may have failed in if the definition that Jesus Christ gives on adultery stands “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 NKJV). Having dealt with my unsolicited disclaimer, let’s move on now.
Waging a campaign on the morality of polygamy as a means to argue the abuse of women is the latest salvo in the arsenal of those who have determined President Zuma unfit to lead SA.
The challenge with this notion is its base, for it assumes a morality defined in marriage, the same which in our constitutional democracy is challenged and redefined to include a new western led alternative lifestyle model of same sex marriages (which the majority of citizens still find abhorrent). The latter with SA perhaps a leader in the world has raised new interpretations on the subject of marriage, its fundamentals, core meaning, age old accepted premise and definition.
The premise of the argument against polygamy raised in the political campaigns waged in South Africa, falsely assumes that the standard of marriage is self- evident in one-man-one-woman in the estate of heterosexual matrimony fundamentally a Calvinistic Christian perspective.
Let us not forget, that it was precisely this strong Calvinistic tradition the residual cornerstone of wrongful appreciation thereof that in Apartheid denied the long standing marriages of Africans and Muslims a space of equality as to that of Afrikaners, English and Coloureds only because these accommodated more than one spouse defined in women. I shall assume the ancient Khoisan practice of marriage definition and meaning would equally not have made the cut in the Apartheid era.
Those who today argue polygamy wrong, commits a fundamental infringement on the afforded constitutional franchise right of all on their convictions, historical practices and rites. This firstly serves as a direct threat to the constitutional rights of those who believe in the practice.
Secondly not only is this a direct attack on the rights of others but it equally articulates a denial of dignity of the spouses associated in such marriages, rendering them to a form of idiocy for allowing such abuse in a post-Beijing 1996 gender based equality dictate. It subliminally assumes those who practice polygamy as spouses lack the understanding, the wherewithal to decide for themselves and as a result of such incapacity enforces a sense of slavery on themselves.
I dare argue not even the strongest of campaigners of women or feminist liberation may in a vacuum assume the right to argue polygamy as an ancient practice necessarily constitutes or translates to women abuse.
The third challenge is what constitutes the fundamental departure point of those who argue this claimed invoked morality for presidential candidature.
The challenge in South Africa is the President is a known practicing polygamist. This issue has thrust the debate and claims to the fore. I shall endeavour to argue this has become a misused issue by some who lacks perhaps justified reasons to oust the president, and now in emotional sense want to prove his preference of polygamous relationships as a means to prove him a woman abuser, bad example for the nation and one who is not sensitive to the presence of HIV/AIDS of South Africa.
At another level we must ask when the Christian standard has dictated our choice for presidents in both ANC and SA context. It would make an interesting research to find out how many of the celebrated ANC leaders in the 100 years of its existence practiced polygamy and if this particular issue ever surfaced as a contention. If ANC members have a problem with this polygamy they needed to make that a prerequisite for organisational leadership a long time ago, it cannot now feature for selfish reasons.
We therefore must ask the troubling question in a contextual sense can we invoke a Calvinistic Christian definition of marriage as a prerequisite for South African presidency? Troubling for the author of this note is a Christian who believes in single marriages. Troubling because 77% of this nation free willingly declared themselves in Census definition as Christians. This also can translate to comfortably assume that many who vote for the ANC come from this Christian premise.
Yet whilst this is a troubling and necessary question it is soiled in this election campaigning season with the claims of those who claim a higher morality, though dubious and very hypocritical.
If we choose to invoke such Christian morality immanent in matrimonial definition for political and high office we must ask from when is this relevant ethic to invoke? Can we also ask how the last presidents prior to the current one weigh up? Since we in the season of political leadership en route to what I have termed the “Promised Mangaung of Revenge” have found it correct to compare can we ask who of South Africa’s presidents have upheld the morally sound dictum of Calvinistic Tradition of matrimonial definition if such is the standard.
Let me again remind us that the Calvinistic Tradition in New Testament exegetical understanding and hermeneutic unlocking proves bias to one-man-for-one-woman in one-life-time-state-of-matrimony. My reason for arguing that is that divorce in New Testament context remains a much contemplated issue. It becomes clear that the premise for divorce as advanced by the New Testament scripture and text remains singularly adultery and nothing else. Yet the text is clear ” Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery” (NKJV : Luke 16: 18). This text remains challenging for interpretation and if read as such leaves many scholars in a conundrum, for it fundamentally argues the marriage was meant for life with one person.
Yet such adultery does not explicitly demand in itself divorce but affords a reciprocal right to divorce for those who choose to make use of it. Equally it invokes certain rights and denials for those who are divorced, the same which has consistently remain contested area for many scholars. The Christian tradition for marriage, it must be understood affords divorce in the event of adultery where the offending partner is proven guilty but does not demand divorce as a must in the event of adultery. There are countless marriages that survived adultery.
To revert back to our political leadership, Apartheid’s last president FW De Klerk a Christian for some of us cannot claim that moral high ground defined in marriage, because he was exposed for adultery eventually divorced his first wife, as he had fallen in love with a friend’s spouse. Clearly he would not be fit to lead if this now claimed morality of Calvinistic tradition was a prerequisite for SA presidency.
The icon Nelson R. Mandela held up as our moral beacon in reconciliation and sacrifice, also a Christian by his own admission ( Methodist Member) in matrimonial context fails the test too, at least for those who know, or if we read his history of those he married and divorced and the challenges of unfaithfulness that filters through on his part.
Former President Mbeki, I am assuming a Christian too, remains married to his wife of many years and do not fit this bill, if divorce is the standard, yet the rumour mills never stopped, and those who claim to know would point out his philandering. Let us not forget that these claims were at some stage leveled by even Winnie Madikizela-Mandela against Mbeki when she accused him of womanising. Hence for some Mbeki though married to the same woman do not fit the bill to be the moral beacon in Christian matrimonial context.
The current deputy president of the ANC and SA Kgalema Motlanthe, his faith expression for most of us an unknown, is a divorced man whose marital status remained a mystery for all in SA, even during his brief stint as president he was alone until he recently proved willing to be seen in public with his new partner.
For what it is worth the other hopeful possible candidate for Manguang, Tokyo Sexwale is also on his second marriage.
Needless to say it is argued those who claim a right to prognosticate and pontificate this Christian morality in presidential embrace in praxis proves rather hypocritical for their very deeds militates against such arrogated right.
I have deliberately gone this route to make the case, to argue a Calvinistic Christian morality for presidents of a constitutional democracy immanent in chastity, faithfulness, and single for life marriages whilst an ideal remains a utopia in praxis and proves disingenuous as a demanded standard.
Church leaders in South Africa like anywhere in the world equally cannot all claim to have upheld this morality when some are into their second and third marriages, others are bi-sexual, some on the proverbial download sexually abusing girls and boys whilst upholding a picture perfect facade of a claimed “faithful” single partner celebration but when those who know of their sin are paid to be quiet.
Others have fathered children outside the confines of such wedlock and continue to abuse members of their flocks in hedonistic sexual escapades. One can easily argue the same of other Faith- leaders.
The reason for arguing this is to prove our comfortable selective morality and its equal elasticity, when we seek to invoke it on political office when Christian Church leaders dismally fail to make the cut which is for them a non-negotiable.
Zuma, a one time divorcee like many others is a polygamist, his traditions and culture affords him that. Yet the debates and snide on his polygamous relationships, have many shades.
I would be the first to concede if the President’s marriages cost us much more in monetary value than what we can afford let us engage that sensibly and conclude in decision to support one of his spouses as a standard.
This in my opinion is perhaps where the debate should be located. Let us revisit the presidential definition of benefits and augment such to accommodate a scenario that we as South Africans do not feel financially done in by his matrimonial preferences, but to argue the abuse of women in such is to prove mendacious and denigrating.
Also we cannot argue his polygamy to confuse the message and fight against HIV/AIDS. For the record no president of post apartheid making has so visibly proven astute in visionary leadership to show the way on the subject matter.
He appointed perhaps the most effective minister in health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, in post apartheid context.
His personal public tests and the progress made under his leadership to allow for earlier medication when the prescribed CD4 count for those infected was 200 before one may access treatment this administration lifted that to over 350. His leadership rendered the TAC and Zackie Achmat into our history if their absence in media presence means anything, gone are the days when we heard Achmat starving or marching.
His leadership on HIV/ AIDS is well celebrated internationally. The most recent statistics on the dreaded disease shows that the stigma is dissipating and the battle is being won in the mother- to- child transfer. Also the inroads made in the other age groups prove heartening.
We know we far from winning the battle yet we have long way since we were dubbed a HIV/AIDS denialist state.
Those who argue Zuma can’t lead because of his polygamy which sets a bad example of women abuse and carelessness in sex cannot argue that sustainably nor can they factually corroborate that rendering such malicious and I’ll-intended.
If one wants to argue his claimed rape case as means to argue that he is not fit, we must ask what the courts found, if we believe in the judicial system we cannot argue as if there was no finding. Let the finding count which clearly declared him innocent of rape.
If one prefers to use his indiscretion by raising a child, it could stand as irresponsible for which he unequivocally deserves rebuke.
Yet the ANC who had a right to instigate disciplinary procedures against him, did not find it necessary to charge him with disciplinary case. He publicly admitted his wrong to the ANC and SA and apologized for this. We did not demand him to vacate office, for whatever reasons. Hence this cannot stand either.
Those who want Zuma, out simply cannot use this belatedly, backdoor criteria as tool to assess his presidency, it cannot stick because its argued in a vacuum, with no previous president as maximum symbol of such adherence of Christian matrimonial ethic. I suggest they find legitimate reasons to judge his presidency because this invoking simply do not fly, cant be corroborated, and is sophistic in context.
Nor can his detractors argue his polygamous relationships confirms women abuse, for that is an assumption in the superlative. His detractors cannot argue that he is bad example when all presidents before him proved weak in the very area, whether they remained married, divorced or proved a philandering lifestyle and praxis.
Arguing for a Christian matrimonial morality in SA presidency embrace, cannot be deliberately misunderstood in lop-sidedness, but must take full cognisance of the interpretation of marriage, divorce and re-marriage in New Testament interpretation, therefore an endorsement of marraige in New Testament embrace is an endorsement of the teachings of divorce and remarraige. History, the present nor our future affords us the right to prove selective as to what we prefer from the didache on marriage as understood in New Testament context.
Polygamy was never a challenge for the tribal groups in South Africa, nor for some Faiths, yet in democracy needs to be understood and reflected upon as a coalescing theme at times challenging reality which would need interpretation and reinterpretation all the time.
Let us ask what morality should inform the selection of presidents let us argue can we invoke a unilateral Christian ethic of matrimonial definition and if so why?
It therefore remains a fallacy to attempt to invoke such and it is deserving of rejection with contempt.
Bishop Clyde N. Ramalaine
In His personal Capacity
Article appears courtesy : “Tradewinds are Blowing” – Political Analysis and Musings
Due October 2012